16 May 1997

Breeder says better crops for UK on the way

ADVANTA, the latest name to emerge from rationalisation of plant breeders, promises better cereal, peas, oilseed, grass and forage varieties for the UK, and the speedier introduction of biotechnology.

The global outfit was formed last year when Zeneca and Dutch sugar co-operative, COSUN, pooled their seed interests to create the worlds fifth largest seed company. Turnover is £270m with 2500 employees in 20 countries.

Main benefit of the merger, apart from rationalisation and synergies in breeding, is the achievement of a critical mass to sustain biotech research, explained general manager, Mike Ruchven, this week. About 10% of turnover will be invested in R & D.

In the UK, Advanta will retain its Zeneca, Sharpes International and Mommersteeg seed companies, giving a combined turnover of over £35m. The UK will be the world centre for cereal and pea breeding, said Mr Ruchven. &#42